How to communicate in the workplace

apg_communicate_090119_mn.jpgFigure Out When to Text, When to Call and When to Log Some Face Time

Today’s wireless world offers an endless array communication choices, giving businesses and individuals a myriad of efficient options to keep in touch with the rest of the world. But in many cases, the proliferation of choices has also blurred the rules of professional protocol.

Check out this scenario: Kylie is stuck in traffic, running late for a meeting with her supervisor, Danielle. Danielle is a pretty mellow boss, only a few years older than Kylie, but she is strict about the importance of being on time.

Should Kylie:

a) call Danielle’s office phone
b) call Danielle’s cell phone
c) text Danielle
d) send Danielle an e-mail from her iPhone

Twenty years ago, the only possible answer to this questions would have been “a.” There were few cell phones, text messages or e-mails, so professional protocol was clear. But what about today? What is the right way to communicate when we have so many choices?

Read the rest of this article in my weekly column at ABC News on Campus

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15 Responses

  1. If this is the first time Kylie is late and Danielle hasn’t had the opportunity to set some ground rules about communication, then Kylie should try Danielle’s office phone. If she doesn’t answer, then she should try her cell phone and then send an email, in that order.

    However, if they have set up some sort of agreement between them, Kylie should do whichever one Danielle suggested. If they have a rapport and Danielle has established that an email or text is good enough for her, then I think Kylie should follow her instructions.

  2. It is an interesting dilemma that all the communication options present. Thanks for bringing it up Lindsey. I have to agree with Cassandra.

    I’ll also add that one of my boss’s taught me to plan for traffic and arrive extra early. He was never late. I’m still working on it but I’m much better than I used to be!

  3. My two classes at CUNY/John Jay College weighed in very differently. In the first-

    A) Call Danielle’s office phone (9)
    B) Call Danielle’s cell phone (11)
    C) Text Danielle (0)
    D) Send Danielle an e-mail from iPhone (1)

    *In the second-

    A) Call Danielle’s office phone (21)
    B) Call Danielle’s cell phone (0)
    C) Text Danielle (1)
    D) Send Danielle an e-mail from iPhone (1)

    *It’s important to note that in the second class we had just had a lengthy conversation about the perception that millennials are not strong face-to-face communicators. The group so desperately wanted to be RIGHT and assumed that calling the office phone best resembled meeting potential conflict head on).

    After discussing your reasoning for why it’s important to communicate via Danielle’s preferred method, a lot of light bulbs went off about how all communication works best when a speaker packages her message so that it can most effectively be heard by an audience (be it an audience of 1 or 1,000).

    Thank you for the great class activity, Lindsey!

  4. Great topic. This is something I wrote about on Brazen Careerist. From conversations with friends and colleagues, it sounds like a call still trumps a text. But, when in doubt, be sure to ask your boss what his or her preferred method of communication is.

  5. Lindsey, it’s true that we all could use a little refresher on 21st Century conflict management. 45 Things just had a great post on this type of communication recently, too. It’s important to understand how to navigate the waters of conflict, and take responsibility for mistakes when necessary. This attitude will go far in creating a good reputation that follows you in future job searches.

  6. It’s definitely a good idea to re-think how we use these tools to communicate at work. People often rely on email because they think it saves time and (emotional) energy, but that’s not always the case.

    There’s a great CIO magazine article on face-to-face communication (link below) that talks about how email often leads to misinterpretation and can delay decision-making.

    Ever get one of those emails that says “Can you deal with this?” followed by an incomprehensible trail of emails and sentence fragments? This is one of those instances where a quick meeting would deal with the situation much more effectively.

  7. Thanks for this insightful post! The workplace has really changed in this way. It’s especially important for young professionals to be wary about this as some of the people they work with will likely prefer the more established, formal ways of communicating. There is a time and place for every form of communication though.

    For more information on communicating as a young professional, check out They have useful tips on a lot of these different forms like this one:

  8. I think calling the office phone is the best bet, as using the receptionist as a buffer and conveyor of the bad news makes life a bit simpler. Now we know why the old saying of “Don’t shoot the messenger” is soooo apt! Modern office etiquette is actually a very interesting topic, and I would love to see the definitive blog post on the subject!

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